Episode 107: Are We Born Depraved?

The discovery that children have a natural inclination to believe in invisible, immortal, super-knowing agents has some religious apologists boasting that science has found the sensus divinitatis. Despite possessing this inner sense of the divine, John Calvin declared children to be morally corrupt by nature.  This doctrine of total depravity has served as a justification for authoritarian child-rearing practices aimed at instilling obedience in strong-willed children.  But a close look at the data suggests our theistic inclinations are byproducts of our cognitive development and not a special God-given faculty. Likewise, studies on the moral development of children reveal the foundations for empathy are present even at a young age. Authoritarian parenting may hinder that development and contribute to a variety of social ills.

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Episode 106: Moonie Madness

The Unification Church was virtually unknown in America until the 1970′s when concerned parents, anti-cult groups and members of congress raised alarm about the powerful “brainwashing” techniques used by “moonies” to lure new converts into their dangerous cult.  Now that the self-proclaimed “messiah” Sun Myung Moon has died a group of sociologists are defending the Unification Church. While their beliefs and practices may strike most as odd they are hardly the predatory cult some have made them out to be (these sociologists claim). In particular, researchers of new religious movements object to the pseudoscientific notion of “brainwashing”–insisting that what compels people to join groups like the Unification Church amounts to nothing more than ordinary forces of group psychology at play in any religion. Anti-cult groups have fired back accusing these researchers of engaging in apologetics and secretly accepting financial kick-backs from the same groups they defend. What is a cult and how is it different (if at all) from a religion? Is there any scientific support for the concept of brainwashing? We will attempt to answer these questions and more. Also on this episode: violence across the Muslim world, blasphemy laws backfire in Pakistan, and Mark Regnerus’ research on homosexual parenting is dissected for this weeks “God Thinks Like You”

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Episode 105: Are We Born to Believe?

Some atheists have argued that children are naturally non-believers. Were it not for indoctrination at the hands of parents and clergy children would never pick up supernatural beliefs on their own and religion would wither and die. But a growing body of research in developmental psychology suggests just the opposite. Children have a natural inclination to believe in invisible, immortal, super-knowing agents who are responsible for design in the natural world. For this first part in a series on the evolved origins of religious belief the doubtcasters review two books  (Justin Barrett’s Born Believers and Jesse Berring’s the Belief Instinct) which make the case that religious belief is not only natural–it is almost inevitable.

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RD Extra: Polyatheism – Modern Lessons From Ancient Myths

This RD Extra features a lecture by David Fletcher, delivered to CFI Michigan on July 11th 2012

Lecture Description:

There are many lessons we can learn from the myths of ancient and modern cultures, ranging from the profound to the absurd. In this presentation we will explore the mythologies of various cultures around the world and get to know some of the many gods and goddesses worth not believing in.

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Episode 104: Religious Experience (with guest Tanya Luhrmann)

For many religious believers the most compelling evidence for theism is their own personal experience of God’s presence. Christians in the rapidly growing charismatic “renewalist” movement do not just talk to God, they claim to actually hear God talking back. Are these powerful religious experiences evidence that God really exists or are they the result of mental illness?  Anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann, author of When God Talks Back, offers another explanation: such experiences arise naturally when spiritual communities learn to train and enhance their natural capacity for imagination.  She joins us on the show to talk about what she observed while studying members of the renewalist Vineyard Church. Also in this episode: just how much government revenue is lost due to religious tax exemptions and direct subsides to churches? The answer will shock you.  Plus, a counter-apologetics on Richard Swinburne’s argument from religious experience and a new pollyatheism.

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Episode 104 Links:

Council For Secular Humanism Report on Religious Tax exemption

Churches challenge IRS/IRS does nothing

Episode 103: Snakes and T.U.L.I.P.s

Members of the Southern Baptist Convention are denouncing the aggressive “new Calvinists” who have infiltrated their ranks and insist on pushing the belief that God predestined some people to hell long before the first human sinned. You know what that means? IT’s TULIP TIME! Join us as the doubtcasters give a skeptical overview of the five points of Calvinism (also known as T.U.L.I.P.) and explain why the SBC objects to these doctrines. But new Calvinists are not the only ones making news in the American south… hear from gay hating preachers, snake-handlers, and mega-church cult leaders for the first (and possibly the last) installment of a new segment…WHEN SOUTHERN PREACHERS ATTACK! Also, more on the link between atheism and autism, plus William Lane Craig grapples with determinism for this weeks counter-apologetics segment.

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Episode 103 Links

Vatican leaks

Pope’s butler charged

Pastor encourages abuse of gay children

famous” Snake Handler dies from bite

Serpent handlers should be lauded for their faith…seriously?

if Jim Jones ran a prosperity gospel mega-church

Southern Baptists divided over Calvinism

Scriptures for and against “the Perseverance of the Saints”

RD Extra: Debunking D’Souza

Last April, secularist author Susan Jacoby and Christian apologist Dinesh D’Souza debated each other over the question, “Is Christianity Good for American Politics?” While Jacoby’s argument was more accurate, D’Souza employed a host of logical fallacies and historical inaccuracies to gain a rhetorical edge. For this RD Extra, doubtcaster Jeremy Beahan joins Ed Brayton of Culture Wars Radio for some in-depth post-debate analysis.

Click here to watch the full debate, “Is Christianity Good for American Politics” sponsored by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies (at Grand Valley State University) and Center for Inquiry Michigan.

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Episode 102: The Skeptic’s Psychology of Religion Toolkit

Over the past several years a number of studies have been published which purport to show the psychological benefits of religious belief. These studies are often plagued by shoddy design, inadequate controls and overreliance on self-report data–yet even the most careful skeptics can overlook these mistakes. For this episode Dr. Galen explains 10 of the most common errors to watch for in psychology of religion research.  Also, for this episode we examine contradictions in the story of Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, and we take a look at Thor for another polyatheism segment.

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Episode 101: Is God a Liar?

Numerous passages in both the Old and New Testaments depict God as a being who actively engages in deception but apologist Joel Furches claims that these passages, seen in their proper context, reveal a God that never deceives–He simply allows sinful people to reap the consequences of their own lack of faith. A careful examination of the Bible, however, shows a God that is willing to use deception as an instrument for advancing his plan on earth. For this episode’s installment of God Thinks Like You we examine more evidence that links religious faith to an intuitive style of thinking while skepticism correlates with an analytic style of thought. We also take a look at politics in Egypt in the wake of the Arab spring and find that, while the overall picture looks grim, there may still be reason for hope. Remembering that women have the most to lose from an Islamic theocracy in Egypt, we close the episode by recounting the mythology of Egypt’s powerful goddess Isis–the subject of this weeks Polyatheism.

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Episode 101 Links:

Islamists rise to power in Egypt is scaring other Egyptians
Muslim comedian charged with insulting Islam
National Geographic article on Egypt
Foreign Policy editorial on “War on Women in Middle East”
Joel Furches‘ article “Is God a Liar”

 

100th Episode Live Special

The Doubtcasters would like  to thank all the RD fans from around the world who took part in our live 100th episode special. Your questions, stories and insights made this milestone for the show that much more special. But if you didn’t get a chance to listen, it’s all here. Does Jesus fulfill the biblical requirements for being the Jewish Messiah? Does the bible condone the beating slaves? What are the worst arguments you’ve ever heard for the existence of God? Why do atheists care what religious people believe? We attempt to answer these questions and many more, and in doing so we show once again that when it comes to the claims of religion there are plenty of reasonable doubts.

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